Mark Schlissel, president of Michigan University, fired over employee relations

The University of Michigan has fired school president Mark Schlissel after an investigation into his relationship with a subordinate.

His removal took effect immediately, the University of Michigan Board of Regents said in a statement posted on the school’s website Saturday.

It said board members had learned about Schlissel’s alleged “inappropriate relationship with a university employee” from an anonymous complaint on Dec. 8 last year.

A study revealed that over a number of years, Schlissel used his university email account to “communicate with the subordinate in a way that is inconsistent with the university’s dignity and reputation,” the board said.

The board said it had released Schlissels emails “for the sake of full publicity” to “illustrate this inappropriate behavior.”

Mark Schlissel speaks at a press conference
Mark Schlissel speaks at a press conference in the Regents Room of the Fleming Administration Building on October 31, 2014 in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Joshua Lott / Getty Images

In the letter to Schlissel, dated January 15, the board wrote: “As you know, the regents received an anonymous complaint regarding an alleged sexual relationship between you and a subordinate.

“A study has revealed that your interactions with the subordinate were incompatible with promoting the dignity and reputation of the University of Michigan.”

The letter also contained details of emails exchanged between Schlissel and the employee that were not identified.

The employee had written that her “heart hurts” in an email on July 1, 2021 to Schlissel, according to the board.

“I know. Mine too,” Schlissel replied, adding that “it’s my fault” and that he “was in pain too.”

The board said the subordinate had said “Oh yes!” in an email to Schlissel on January 9, 2021. His response was, “Love it when you say it.”

On November 4, 2021, Schlissel sent an email to the subordinate about a basketball game from the University of Michigan that he was scheduled to attend as part of his official duties as president, the board said.

In that email, the board said he “expressed disappointment” that he was not sitting with the subordinate, writing “the only reason I agreed to go was to go with you. There is a conspiracy against me. “

Emails published by the board, with the recipient’s name edited, show that Schlissel sent the employee an article from August 2019 from New Yorkers with the headline “Sexual fantasies from everyday New Yorkers”.

In the letter, the board told Schlissel that his behavior was “particularly sinister given your knowledge of and involvement in dealing with harassment incidents by University of Michigan staff, and your stated commitment to work to” liberate “the university community from sexual harassment or other inappropriate behavior. “

Referring to a scandal involving the university’s former rector, the board said: “For example, regarding the actions of Martin Philbert, on August 3, 2020, you sent an email to the entire University of Michigan community in which you wrote: ‘ The highest priority for our rulers and management team is to make our community safe for all. ‘

“You also declared to society that your leadership would” determine what we need to do to address the fear of retaliation in our society and build a culture that does not accept dishonesty or harassment at any level. “Therefore, there can be no doubt that you were fully aware that any inappropriate conduct or communication between you and a subordinate would cause material harm to the dignity and reputation of the University of Michigan. “

The former president of the University of Michigan, Mary Sue Coleman, has been appointed interim president. Her appointment and Schlissel’s dismissal will be confirmed during the board’s formal meeting on February 17.

“Although I’m sorry about the circumstances, I’m honored to be asked to serve the University of Michigan again,” Coleman said in a statement. “When I left the UM campus at the end of my presidency in 2014, I said it was the most rewarding experience of my professional life to serve this great university. I am happy to be able to serve again in this important temporary role. “

Schlissel had a base salary of $ 927,000 a year, according to the Associated Press.

He announced in October last year that he would resign in June 2023, a year before his contract was due to expire. It came after Detroit Free Press reported that his relationship with the university’s regent council had deteriorated.

Schlissel has been contacted for comment.

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